Unlike the Conservatives, who have said they would cut the school building programme and won’t even guarantee existing projects unless they have reached financial close, Labour is committed to seeing BSF through
There is a clear choice at this election. We can continue on the road to economic recovery with Labour, building the housing, transport links, and energy infrastructure Britain needs. Or we can choke off recovery by cutting support too soon, by standing in the way of development, with a devastating impact on jobs, major projects and the economy.
During the recession, we brought forward an extra £1.5bn of investment for housing – to help build 110,000 affordable homes over the next two years, money for housing associations to build new housing for social rent, funding to prepare public sector land, and increased investment in the Kickstart programme. This year we will have the largest council house building programme for two decades. Our Housing Pledge investment alone has created or protected 45,000 jobs and will create 3,000 apprenticeships. In future, we will allow councils to keep all rent receipts from their tenants. As they use that to reduce their debt, they will be given flexibility to refocus on building homes – our reforms will mean up to 10,000 new council homes a year by the end of the next parliament.
Delivering greener housing is key to sustainable growth. We have given the green light to the first wave of eco-towns, which will set out the highest ever standard of green living in Britain. There are a further nine expressions of interest, covering 14 new locations for the second wave of eco-towns. We are working with these councils to develop their existing plans and offers.
The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, ensuring that secondary pupils learn in 21st-century facilities, will continue. By 2011, every local authority in England will have received funding to renew at least the school in greatest need. Unlike the Conservatives, who have said they would cut the school building programme and won’t even guarantee existing projects unless they have reached financial close, Labour is committed to seeing BSF through.
Britain needs to invest in modern, high-capacity and low-carbon transport infrastructure. We are committed to a new high-speed rail line, linking North and South. We have already set out the first stage of our plans, with a route from London to Birmingham – 10,000 jobs could be created during construction of this stage alone. We are also committed to Crossrail in London, adding 10% to London's transport capacity and employing, at the peak of building activity, as many as 14,000 people.
On the issue of low-carbon energy, we will prioritise the development of renewable and nuclear energy through incentives for private sector investment. Around 40% of our electricity will come from low-carbon sources by 2020 – with nuclear, renewables, and clean fossil fuels playing a part. Key to this will be the development of carbon capture and storage technology. We have taken the decision to enable a new generation of nuclear power stations, and four clean coal plants with carbon capture and storage technology, with a levy to fund them.
While Labour goes into this election determined not to place the recovery at risk and with a clear plan to protect the investment we need to maintain world-class infrastructure in Britain, the Tories would put new housing, transport infrastructure, low-carbon energy, and jobs in construction and related trades at risk, with their anti-development planning policies.
We recognise that industry needs confidence in order to invest in developing and bringing forward proposals for major infrastructure. The new Infrastructure Planning Commission, set up by Labour and opposed by the Tories, will streamline and help to speed up decision-making on major projects. The Tory pledge to scrap the commission could create severe delays – putting at risk in particular the vital new energy infrastructure that Britain needs.
And locally, we are reforming the planning system to make it easier for developers to invest in housing projects. Our plans will help councils and developers work together before applications are submitted, ensuring developments are assessed quickly. They will also reduce the number of conditions applied to planning permissions. The changes will deliver up to £11m of savings for businesses and up to £25m for councils every year. Councils will be more involved in how developments are designed. Developers will have greater clarity about the decision-making.
Gordon Brown MP, prime minister and leader of the Labour party